Thanksgiving Day photos

Just a quick post of two photos taken this morning. There’s a snowstorm going on at the moment, so hopefully some snow-covered scenics will be taken tomorrow.

Scout, chomping on her rawhide:

Scout Dog Portrait
Jealous Boo

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November biking

November was a great month for biking to work. I biked in 17 days (of 18, due to the holiday), and drove today just because I need to be able to get around more quickly to book it out of town after work. I’ve driven far more due to the start of ski season, but that was anticipated. I’ll be entering December with 69 days biking to work since June 25, and only 30 days of driving in that time period (only six of those since the Oct. 1). My goal for December is 21 days (of 22 work days). I won’t be disappointed with 20.

Still haven’t pulled the photos from Berthoud, but with the long weekend I should have them up in a few days.

Factors: Factored!

Yesterday was my third day on skis for the year. Normally unremarkable, given the total lack of snow we’ve had thus far. To my extreme joy, the Black Diamond Factor AT boots I ordered arrived on Friday. I hadn’t been planning on skiing this week, but their arrival changed my tune. I went down to REI to get them custom molded to my feet, and drove up to A-Basin yesterday morning for a couple hours on the WROD. Crowds were impressively small, due in no small part to the warm and dry weather we’ve seen for the past week.

Now to the Factors; yes, they’re heavy. On the upside, they ski like a dream. Stiff (forward and laterally), amazing fit for my foot-type, and a ridiculously awesome walk mode. I was finding rollers and little airs to go off of and felt totally stable and in control at all times. I can’t wait for more snow and real terrain to open.

After a couple hours there, it was off to Berthoud Pass to scout around for a while. I got a good perspective on the area and some pictures, but despite the forecast for warm and dry with highs in the 40s, a storm blew in with high winds and snow. Hopefully a sign of things to come. Pictures to follow…

Focus on Fitness

With winter bringing shorter days, colder temperatures, and excessive quantities of generally unhealthy food, it’s a good time to get thinking about fitness again. It’s easy in the summer time. It’s light for hours after getting home, and the warm weather makes it a lot easier to bike to work, go for a walk or run, and just generally be active in the outdoors. Like many people, I’ve had a tendency to gain weight as the weather turns cold, and lose it in the summer. Since I decided to get in shape back in the summer of 2005, I’ve been periodically tracking my weight.

As you can see, I dropped from over 190 to hitting 170 in roughly four months when I first started. Then winter hit. When it warmed back up I spent a lot of time hiking 14ers and running, and hit the mid-upper 160s. I may have been thinner than what is ideal, but man, I was swift. The same thing happened in the winter of 2007 and repeated the next summer. I gained 22 pounds in less than five months, and never took it off despite all my time on the bike. While I’m fast, strong, and by no means fat, I do have a few pounds I could shed which would make me faster and stronger.

Enter the Wii Fit. I finally found one online last week, and it arrived yesterday. It has fun activities for various benefits, but one of the best aspects is weight tracking in only a minute or two every morning. I set a goal in Wii Fit to get sub-25 for my BMI in two months (at my height, that line is at 176). That will require a loss of almost two pounds a week, which may be overambitious. Regardless, I need to get there prior to the spring ski mountaineering season. An extra layer of wool or polypro is far better than extra fat to stay warm.

I’m lucky enough to have a friend who is also actively working to get back in shape, and fantastic backcountry skiing opportunities nearby. A hard skin up in cold weather can burn several hundred calories per hour. Even better, each lap you’re rewarded with a ski run through untouched powder and no crowds, with low-speed quads to get you up any where you want to try. Even better is light winter mountaineering. The cold, wind, and gear weight can result in so great an energy burn that you could lose a pound of fat even after a huge meal at the end of the day to recharge.

Get out there, burn some fat, and most importantly, have fun!

Snow!

Late last night and early this morning, Denver got its first dose of snow for the season. It’s been a long time coming, and will hopefully be the first of much more to fall. On another note, today was my 62nd day of biking to work (18th in the past 3 weeks) since June 25th. It’s been three and a half weeks since I last filled my car up with gas, and I have around 5/8 of a tank left. I’m fortunate to have a job within five miles of home, making for a quick and easy bike commute.

Here are some tips for making it through the next few, cold months:

Wear an appropriate amount of warm clothing, preferably with a snug fit. You don’t want to be dressed to warmly, or you’ll be sweating by the end of the ride, which is never a good thing (especially when it’s cold). A tighter fit will reduce wind resistance, making the ride that much easier, especially in the windy mornings that Denver has almost daily in the winter.

Ski gloves. Several companies make warm gloves made for cold-weather cycling. Forget them, just use a pair of cheap ski gloves. The hand shape is right and they’re much warmer.

Clear safety glasses. These would have been very handy this morning, but I managed to forget them at home. Blowing snow (especially compounded by 15-20mph bike speeds) can be blinding and painful.

A face mask, for colder mornings. So your face doesn’t freeze. I’ve got an under armor neck/lower face one that’s perfect, or a full-face if it’s really bad. Alternately, just don’t shave. Beards are nature’s face mask, and even just a couple days worth of stubble can work wonders.

Good shoes. I use the Shimano MT70, available from BackcountryOutlet.com for at least half off. They’re the perfect commute shoe – comfortable to walk in, with two-hole cleat compatibility and with a goretex membrane. My feet were still cold this morning, so wear heavy socks if it’s really cold.

A mindset towards avoiding braking, when it’s wet. Wet brakes don’t work as well, plus they wear down much faster than when it’s dry. A fixed-gear bike would help with this, but the right riding style helps immensely as well.

If you have a mountain bike and are really serious about it, there exist studded tires. These are available at Backcountry and other retailers, and will make you nearly indestructable in even the worst conditions.

Winter has finally arrived in Denver, so go make the most of it!

“What happened to your face?”

Is a question I’ve heard many times over the past few days. What started as a heavily bleeding laceration along with a concussion has turned into a very significant black eye. This picture was taken yesterday:

Since yesterday, the yellows and purples around my eye have gotten larger and brighter.

Wear your helmets, kids.